Acrimony at G7 summit

Ever since taking charge of the Oval Office last year, US President Donald Trump has introduced a new element of extreme protectionism in US foreign policy that has catapulted it to the direction of unilateralism, which in turn is pushing the United States to isolation in the world arena. This new-found unilateralism in US foreign policy, under the leadership of Donald Trump, has touched a new height at the just-concluded G7 summit.

The abrupt and acrimonious manner in which US President Donald Trump has retracted his endorsement of the joint communiqué at the end of summit - and the subsequent despicable exchange of taunts and scoffs between him and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - is going to create a deep wedge between Washington and its traditional close allies. Time and again, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he does not see any difference between managing a personal business empire and running a government as a head of state. The impulsive and bullying tendencies of his core personality dominate every sphere of his management style. The same personal traits were very visible in his demeanour during the G7 summit in Canada. Thanks to the blunt ruggedness and cragginess of Donald Trump, this turned out to be the most fractious gathering of G7 leaders in recent times. In fact, a lot of commentators have dubbed it as “G6+1” summit. Factually speaking, most of the leaders at the summit were expecting Donald Trump, who had recently shown softness towards China on the matters of Trade friction, to also exhibit similar pliability with his G7 colleagues – at least - on the matter of unilateral tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. For quite some time, Trump has been accusing his G7 counterparts and other nations of “unfair” trade practices and of treating the US like a “piggy bank”. “The United States has been taken advantage of for decades and decades,” Trump snarled at his chronic allies during the summit, rephrasing his long-standing stance that Washington has been exploited for too long by existing trade arrangements. However, he puts all the blame on the incompetency of his White House predecessors for these “unfair” trade agreements, not the G7 leaders.

Just a week before G 7 summit, the US imposed a 25% tariff for steel and 10% for aluminium on imports from the EU, Canada, and Mexico. According to President Trump this move was vital to the US national security and to protect domestic producers. This unilateral imposition of US tariffs on steel and aluminium was perhaps the most contentious point that even changed the tone of the summit even before its inaugural session. Despite all efforts to convince him to mollify his stance, Trump did not budge on this matter, eventually compelling the retaliatory tariffs announcement by his G7 counterparts who reiterated their support for reduction in tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies. There were three more issues on which there was complete discord at the summit, which also validated the growing unilateralism in Trump’s foreign policy. President Trump tried to win support for the re-inclusion of Russia in the G7 club, but he faced extreme resistance at the summit. In advance of his trip to Canada, Trump detonated a rabble-rousing proposal by calling for the re-admission of Russia into the G7.

Except for Italy, this proposition received flakes from all its European allies. During the summit, Donald Trump tried to make a room for Russia In the G7 through his back door efforts, but the final communiqué made a joint demand from Russia to abstain from “its destabilising behaviour” in general. The leaders also called on the Kremlin to stop meddling with the internal affairs of Ukraine and to stop “undermine democracy” there as well as to withdraw its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This was also a major personal rebuke for president Trump. Similarly on the question of Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, there were clear indications that he lacked any support within the group for his approach towards Tehran’s nuclear proliferation programme. In the same tone, the joint communiqué also seriously agreed to disagree with Trump’s plea to withdraw from the Paris declaration on climate.

Two things were very conspicuous at this G7 summit. One, the persistently bullying and intimidating style of Donald Trump, who, contrary to the established diplomatic norms for such gatherings, kept on trying to show his arrogance in all the possible ways. He joined the summit late and left early, without even waiting for the joint statement to be issued. And two, the retaliatory tone of his counterparts was also a very new to this gathering. There were visible signs that matters were reaching to the boiling point – and this actually happened. The abrupt decision by Donald Trump to stop US officials from signing the joint communiqué , which also coincided with his very personal remarks about Justin Trudeau, has cast shadow over the effectiveness of the G7 club. The manner in which President Trump castigated Trudeau in his tweet as “very dishonest and weak” is utterly provocative and the counter reaction by Trudeau in the form of imposition of retaliatory tariffs from July 1 is very understandable. Interestingly, Donald Trump has directly blamed Justin Trudeau for coercing him to take this step through his post-summit press conference. “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!” are the exact words of Donald Trump used in his tweet. Before departing the G7 summit, Donald Trump has threatened with an escalation of trade war. “If they retaliate, they’re making a mistake,” is how President Trump tried to pre-empt any retaliatory steps from Justin Trudeau.

Suddenly, Washington is appearing to be walking on a lone path. Donald Trump has injected sensationalism of a soap opera in the realm of international relations. The melodrama created by Trump at the G7 summit will certainly further augment the spectre of growing American isolation – a dreadful situation for the long-term global peace and economic stability. However, Donald Trump may suddenly make U-turn and do something atypical to dramatize the situation and cool down the whole scenario. This is his style. But there is no doubt that bitter episode at this year’s G7 summit has once again exposed the underlying wedge between Washington and its chronic traditional allies. The ‘tweetology” concept introduced by Donald Trump is taking its toll on US foreign policy.


The writer is a freelance columnist.

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